Nature Versus Nurture...Again

Two Little Girls At An Age Of InnocenceThe case of nature versus nurture continues to be a debatable issue.  Yet, having recently seen street children in their own homes and neighborhoods in Mambaling, Cebu, I am now leaning towards nurture.

I was recently able to visit the neighborhood of Alaska, Mambaling and saw the many, many children of the poverty-stricken families in this area.  The number of children scared me, because I knew that the household income (or lack of it) of the people here could not adequately support these children.

Witnessing the deprivation of young children born to poverty-stricken parents is so different from just reading about it.  Looking at those children playing in the run-down public gym made my heart constrict.  They were dirty, barefoot, and wore tattered clothes.  At their age, they should have been in school!  Yet, they play today without a care for tomorrow, not knowing that there might not be a carefree tomorrow waiting for them.

And I get mad at their parents, who are nowhere to be found.  Young children were running around, being so unruly, without a single grown-up supervising them.  Where are the family values?  Where is the guidance?  Where is the nurturing?

Plant a seed and water it, and it grows.  Plant a seed and leave it alone, and it might die.  It’s the same thing with children!  That day, we tried to instill some order, to curb the unruliness and the fisticuffs that were ensuing.  It was so hard.  No one listened.  It seemed like they were used to ignoring grown-ups.

Of them all, I particularly remember 2 little girls.  They were really sweet together and played quietly on the edge of the gym.  When we were there, they followed us around and were smiling and helpful.  They looked so removed from everything else around them.  How long will they retain their innocence?  How long will they retain their sweetness amidst all the hardness around them?

I impulsively took their photo on my mobile phone to remember them.  And now, writing this, I look at their picture and I get a little misty-eyed.  How are they now?

Going back to the eternal debate, I say it’s nurture.  Those children were born with a disadvantage, yes.  But for as long as they are alive, there is always the chance for change.  For as long as they are nurtured, there is always a chance for growth.  And for as long as they are taught, there is always a chance for a better life.

At the end of the day, it’s not about where they started.  It’s about where they end up.  It starts with their parents and it ends with them.  God bless the little children of the world.